Working… waiting… working… hoping… working.

snow monkey sitting in water

Oh, my heavens. It’s Friday, which is both good and bad. I have a huge deadline tomorrow morning — we’re launching an application at work that’s at the center of a huge political battle. And I’ve been in the thick of it for about a year, now.

When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing that I’m still functioning. This project has torn the living crap out of me and lots of people who worked on it. The main problem is the politics behind it — four six different bosses from three different countries, all at cross-purposes, all using those of us “in the trenches” as cannon fodder to build their empires.

And meanwhile, all we’ve really wanted to do was get the job done. Just get the work finished to our satisfaction and the best of our abilities. The project had to be done. It’s replacing a couple of other software applications that have kept people from doing their jobs for years. Those old apps have made a lot of people miserable / mad / frustrated / apoplectic (me included). So, replacing them with a single “solution” just makes sense.

It’s been expensive. It’s been demanding. It’s been extremely detailed and time-consuming. But it had to get done.

And we were all prepared to do it. We were ready to do it. To make the concessions. To compromise. To collaborate. To do what needed to be done. And we’ve done exactly that.

No thanks to our bosses. If anything, they’ve been the blocking factors. They’ve been the ones who have been making everything harder and more complicated than need be. They all want to hang onto their power and influence and make sure they have a place in the evolving world around us. But it’s been at the expense of the people actually doing the work.

Like me. And the other person doing a job similar to mine in another division, who’s been in lockstep with me, the whole way. She might actually be dying. She’s got COPD and a host of other health issues, and she’s been out sick a lot, over the past couple of months. She’s having surgery next week, and I’m not sure if she’s physically strong enough to survive it. Others on the project have been on extended sick leave, because the pressure was just too great. We’ve all been pushing forward. And the thing holding us back, has been “management”. The people in charge. Who see imminent success on the horizon, and all want to jump in and take credit for it.

Of course, we’ll just be pushed out of the way, as people who had nothing to do with any of it step in and start to crow about how they had a role in the success. While those of us who put on the proverbial brakes and kept people from making really bad decisions are pushed to the side and dismissed.

I just want it to be over with. And then I want to go on vacation for Thanksgiving week and not think about any of this. I won’t be able to, of course. Oh, sure, I can take vacation, but I won’t have all that time off. Partly, that’s okay, because getting this thing launched is pretty exciting, overall.

And when it’s live, it’ll be a thing of beauty.

But man, oh man, am I tired. Just fried. Over it.

And sick of everything.

Well, once this is all put to bed, with all the nagging details settled and accounted for, the next batch of tasks identified and prioritized, and the political wheels put in motion to get those things on the radar of somebody Very Important, I can step back catch my breath, and go back to living my life.

I just have to get through today in an orderly fashion and in one piece.

Then, tomorrow, I can dig in for a few hours in the morning… get this puppy launched… and get back to my life.

And do something other than work 12 hours a day for somebody else.

Maybe immerse myself in Joy.

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The myth of the #authenticself

I woke up to this unfortunate adminition today. It was on my LinkedIn timeline, and it was about the last thing I needed to read, just when I was getting moving into my day:

What if…

You believed you could conquer the world?

You gave yourself permission to be your awesome, authentic self?

You stopped worrying what other people might think?

You courageously came out of the shadows?

You followed your passion?

You stepped out of your comfort zone and into growth?

You took a chance?

You believed in yourself and your abilities?

You were unapologetically you?

You took a deep breath and went for it?

You said no to the negative things and people that no longer serve you?

You said yes to the positive things and people who get you?

You knew your true purpose?

You weren’t entirely sure, but kept moving forward anyway?

You had no regrets or failures, only life lessons?

You allowed your curiosity to guide you to new experiences?

You transformed into the person you always knew you could be?

You embraced life’s infinite possibilities?

You asked yourself, “What if?”?

And, what if…

I told you it was okay to do all of the above, to inspire you to leap even though you were scared and nervous about taking that first step?

Would you? I hope so.

Never forget that you are the architect of your life; design one that makes you happy.

It’s not that I don’t agree with being true to yourself and being “my authentic self”.

But the sad fact of the matter is, I’ve been doing exactly this, my entire life, and it simply isn’t paying off.

If anything, it’s worked against me. I’ve embraced the possibilities, I’ve done it all:

I believed I could conquer the world.

I gave myself permission to be my awesome, authentic self.

I didn’t worry what other people might think.

I courageously came out of the shadows.

I followed my passion.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and into growth.

I took a chance.

I believed in myself and my abilities.

I was unapologetically me.

I took a deep breath and went for it.

I said no to the negative things and people that no longer served me.

I said yes to the positive things and people who got me. – All three of them.

I knew my true purpose.

I was never entirely sure, but I kept moving forward anyway.

I have plenty of regrets and failures, with more than my fair share of life lessons.

I allowed my curiosity to guide me to new experiences.

I transformed into the person I always knew I could be.

I embraced life’s infinite possibilities.

I asked myself, “What if?”.

And…

I believed with all my heart it was okay to do all of the above, to inspire myself to leap even though I was scared and nervous about taking that first step.

Would you. I hope so.

I never forgot that I am the architect of my life; and I designed one that makes me happy.

And I’ve had a good run. It’s been interesting. But if anything, it has just made my life more complicated, challenging, and financially deprived, than anything else.

“Money isn’t everything,” you say? Tell that to the grocery store where I buy my food. Tell that to my bank that holds my mortgage. Tell that to the doctors who have to get paid. Everybody has to get paid, and authenticity isn’t exactly legal tender.

A lot of self-improvement gurus love to tell us that “being your authentic self” is going to make your life better. Fine. Maybe it feels good to not be on your best behavior, 24/7. Maybe it takes the pressure off. The thing is, this whole authentic self thing isn’t a magic bullet that’s going to slay the demons and monsters deep in people’s hearts. If anything, it can make things even worse for you, on down the line.

Because nobody talks about the downsides of being “your authentic self”. Nobody talks about how vicious and mean-spirited the rest of the world can be to folks who are vulnerable — or simply honest. Nobody talks about the jobs you’ll lose, the opportunities that will pass you by (because somebody else fits into the organization better than your #authenticself does). Nobody talks about how really truly lonely it is to stand on your own two feet and stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd of conformers.

Loneliness is terrible for your health. Isolation is terrible for your financial and social prospects. And it’s also bad for your mental health.

Plus… Nobody talks about how #ActuallyAutistic people have tried to do this for aeons, and all it’s gotten us is abuse and ABA and Autism$peaks.  PTSD. Sh*tty newspaper and magazine articles about what a burden we are. Countless social media posts about how much suffering we caus.

Face it, all you purpose-driven people — the world does not center itself on authenticity. It centers itself on people who fit in and are useful to the larger (economic) purpose. It prioritizes people who are useful, who are money-makers, who are compliant and make others feel safe and comfortable by validating their sh*tty choices.

Fortunately, I can operate in “pseudo mode”, as well as “authentic mode”. I can pretend to fit in. I can match my behavior to others’ ideals. It’s actually really easy. Just mimic them. Mirror them. People love it. They think it means I agree with them and I’m like them, instead of that I’m humoring them just to complete the social interaction. It’s something I learned early on.

Being “me” doesn’t go over well, in general. I learned that early on, too. Other people aren’t up to the challenge of dealing with all of me. And that’s as it should be, because I’m way ahead of their curve. I’m their future, and the future usually scares people.

On the other hand, if I can modify my behavior and demeanor to match others’ tastes, it puts them at ease, and then I can actually get something done. It’s inconvenient at times, and it’s not always easy. And by no means is it “denying myself” or being someone I am not — there is a faint shadow of me in those interactions. It’s simply me bringing focus to those parts of myself that others recognize, being true to the dynamic, and putting the needs of the other person ahead of my own (a lost art, IMHO), so we can collaborate and build a relationship that actually works for both of us.

I think that other-centered orientation is something our me-first Western culture has lost in the past 30 years. And for those who are under 40, it may sound like an horrible affront to their identity. But putting others first and honoring the relationship — being strong enough in yourself that you can make concessions to others and adjust your “mode” to help the dynamic be positive and productive — is really how I get along in the world.

Is it masking? Sure. Is it blending? Certainly. Is it hard work? You betcha. Does it wear me out and feel unfair and depleting? Many times, yes. But it makes a whole lot of things possible for me, that I’d otherwise not have or be able to do. Like a good job in the mainstream. Like conversations and interactions with people who are nothing like me, who would never feel comfortable with my “100% authentic self”, and who are not the kinds of people I’d spend any time with, if it weren’t necessary. But I’m strong enough in myself, and I have a clear enough sense of who I am and where I fit in the world and what my own priorities are and what my own values are, that I can interact with others — and let them be other — without it wrecking my self-conception and self-regard.

I make constant sacrifices for others. It’s how I get by. But I am also richly compensated, in terms of time to myself and the means to pursue my own interests in my own way and on my own time.

So, in that respect, not giving perpetual free-rein to my #authenticself makes total sense.

Besides, what would happen, if I “let it all hang out”?

Seriously, things would come crashing down. In a very big way. I should know. I’ve only learned how to not do it in the past 5 years or so, and my fortunes have improved as a result. As a matter of fact, doing all of the above in that checklist of authenticity resulted in job difficulties, relationship challenges, not being fully employed, being held back socially and financially and in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, all the people who are marketing this whole #authenticself business (and it is a business) vastly under-estimate the very real consequences, when we do exactly what they say we should do.

Of course, there’s been some payoff to all this authenticity. It hasn’t been without its rewards. I’ve had an interesting life, that’s for sure. And I know who I am. That’s a plus. But it hasn’t kept me in pearls and diamonds, and I’m still just a few paychecks (or a nasty, uninsurable medical emergency) away from being flat broke and out on the street. I could easily lose everything, and having already been homeless in the past, I have no wish to repeat the experience — especially in the later years of my life.

All the years I spent being so authentic set me back, putting me years behind my peers, in terms of savings and ability to protect myself from a hostile world. And now that I’m looking at my “golden years” of no financial safety net, no nest egg, no retirement possible (I’ll just keep working till I die, I guess), all that authenticity looks like it was a poor use of time.

Seriously. If I’d been a little less uncompromising, a little more willing to pretend to be someone else, a little more sensitive to what others think of me, a little more compliant, a little more willing to play the game, I wouldn’t have passed up so many opportunities I can remember having had in front of me — laid out on a proverbial silver platter.

So, yeah, while “being your authentic self” sounds great to most people, it really only works after you’ve played the game for a while, gotten yourself in good financial circumstances, and you can afford to be “eccentric”. If you’ve got money, that makes you “colorful”. If you don’t, it makes you a poor use of social interaction.

And to all the people who are making a living off encouraging people to be their #authenticselves… well, I’ve got nothing much to say to them. Other than, maybe you should find a more honest way to make a living.

#Autistic joy – it’s a thing. And we should have more of it.

agora theatre wall
Agora Theatre Wall – isn’t it lovely?

This morning, during my morning exercise bike ride, I read a piece by John Elder Robison about My Life With Asperger’s

Sex, Lies, and Autism Research – getting value for our money

How to get tangible benefit from the millions we spend on autism science

The US government is the world’s biggest funder of autism research.  For the past decade I have had the honor of advising various agencies and committees on how that money should be spent.  Sometimes I’ve been pleased at our government’s choices.  Other times I’ve been disappointed.  Every now and then I turn to reflect:  What have we gotten for our investment?

Autistic people and parents agree on this:  The hundreds of millions we’ve spent on autism research every year has provided precious little benefit to families and individuals living with autism today.  Over the past decade the expenditures have run into the billions, yet our quality of life has hardly changed at all.

You can read the full piece here. It’s worth it.

And of course it got me thinking… along similar lines to yesterday’s post, wherein I pondered the irregularity of autistic joy.

Returns on investment. Getting our money’s worth. Having something to show for our investments… What a world it would be, if all the money spent were going to opening up chances for good to flourish, rather than some “war on autism” dedicated to <begin sarcasm> hunting down and eradicating the dread disorder that “steals” perfectly healthy and happy children from their families and tearing apart everything their parents hope for and hold dear </end sarcasm>.

Now that we’re all triggered, let’s take a deep breath and step back from that hijacking of the collective consciousness by ve$ted intere$t$ and pause to actually recognize and laud the truth of Autistic joy.

If there’s one thing that seems to set Autistic people apart from non-autistics, it seems to be the capacity for joy. Honestly, looking at the neurotypical world, all I see is pain. Frustration. Anguish. Predators and prey. And the best that most non-autistics I know can hope for is just a temporary relief from their pain. Drinking. Drugs. Facebook. Yes, they have their friends and family, their careers and reputations. But even those joys seem so fraught with danger and conflict, there doesn’t seem to be much purity there at all. And the times that my non-autistic friends and associates are happiest, are when they’re numbing their pain with a stiff drink or distracting themselves from their pain and fear with some form of entertainment.

Truly, it’s such a dreary world they inhabit. Where’s the joy? Where’s the ecstasy? They don’t seem to have much capacity for it, and they treat my (and other Autistics’) capacity for unbridled joy like it’s a disorder. A condition that needs to be fixed.

How does that work, exactly? I just don’t get it. I would imagine it’s a little like being a really tall person during the 1700s, when people were considerably smaller than they are today.

The thing is, I don’t think non-autistic people are completely devoid of the ability to feel and experience ecstatic joy. I think they have as much capacity as we Autistics. They’re just not allowed to experience it by their milieu. They’re smacked down. Held back. Shamed and blamed and pressured into being certain ways because that’s “normal”. Huh. How ’bout that.

Meanwhile, it just holds them back. It cripples them, not only in their own lives, but also in how they relate to us.

It’s a little like the inexplicable conditioning of women to not really move that much in their lives. I’m noticing this more and more, these days, as I continue to move and be fairly limber and spry and strong, compared to my female peers. I take stairs two at a time. I lift 40-pound water bottles on a semi-regular basis. I rake my own lawn. I shovel refuse into my wheelbarrow and push it to the dump pile down the road. Even though I have issues with chronic pain and scoliosis, I get up and move around with pretty decent mobility.

Meanwhile, my female peers — friends and family — move a lot more slowly than I. Their joints are giving out on them, and they just don’t move as well or as freely as I do. In some cases, I realize it’s because they’ve been focused on being “good girls” for their entire lives, and good girls don’t jump up and run across the room. Good girls don’t take stairs two at a time. Good girls don’t stretch their backs and necks to get them to crack. They might go to yoga. Or take a pilates class. But they don’t really move freely in the course of their everyday lives.

And after decades of being demure, it’s taken a toll. They can’t just hop up and run across the room. They can’t dart out of danger, if something is flying towards them. And they run out of energy pretty quick, pumping themselves up with carbs and sugar and caffeine.

I’m not talking about disabled people who are dealing with physical limitations. I’m talking about healthy, non-disabled people who have actively limited themselves with their choices and behaviors. Because good girls don’t move quickly. Good girls aren’t physical. Good girls don’t take stairs two at a time. That’s not normal. And it’s certainly not free.

I have no idea why some people can’t deal with freedom. Or joy. Or ecstasy. But that’s not really my problem. My job is to make the most of my own freedom, my own joy, my own ecstasy. And to protect and shelter it in the face of all the people who covet it but refuse to allow themselves to experience it.

Autistic joy is a thing. Today, for me, it’s about getting back to my routine, which allows me to do so much more than I could if I had to re-design the schedule for my day, each morning.  I have a lot to get done, and my routine allows me to focus on the new and exciting things that interest me, even while I can consistently complete the basics that form the foundation of my life.

With my routine, I can get myself out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, and get myself downstairs with relative ease. With my routine, I can get my daily exercise, catch up on my online reading, have my breakfast, and get some writing done before I start my day-job work. With my routine — which other people might consider mind-numbingly consistent — my mind is freed up to do more interesting (and far more complex) things than figure out how to fix my breakfast. With my routine, I can get a whole lot of things done, that most people wouldn’t think are even remotely possible. And there’s a lot of joy to be had in the doing. Having four(+) projects going at the same time, and seeing them all coming to fruition in their own times and their own ways, is a rare treat that isn’t even on the radar of most people I know.

Autistic Routine — as much as it’s pathologized by the diagnostic establishment — is the very thing that makes it possible for me to function at higher-than-average levels.

And it’s something that brings me joy, which should be more than enough reason to depathologize it.

So, yeah. Rather than getting hung up on all the downsides of Autism (and don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of challenges that can make your life really miserable), maybe we need to focus more on the joy that seems to come part-and-parcel with  Autism.

Autistic Joy is a thing. Let’s have more of that!

Through the river locks of #autistic joy

Quebec river locks
I’m coming ’round to my desired routines again, getting back to some narrow interests that have drawn me in and held my keen interest for years at a time. I’m finding myself able to think again, after a months-long hiatus of all-consuming DO-DO-DO–GO-GO-GO. I’ve been so busy “upping my output” that I’d lost touch with the simple act of taking in.

I had all but forgotten about some of those vital interests — the books I’d bought to read (devour, really) and ingest and think on, long and deeply, got stashed in my office and I haven’t spent much time there at all for months… the papers I’d downloaded to take in and consider also ended up in piles in my office… the theories and philosophies that have lit up my life so brightly for so many years, faded into the background of my day-to-day rush to Get Things Done…

Yeah, I got busy. And necessarily so. All of it was important. All of it held my interest and taught me useful things.

But as with any all-consuming effort that flames up in a series of inner fireworks, there’s a price to be paid, and that price was the steady flame of joy from what’s held my interest in a steady, rapt embrace.

I think perhaps this is a distinctly autistic feature of mine. I tend to be so completely consumed by what I’m doing at the time, I lose sight of everything else. And then my best-laid plans to do such-and-such a thing in such-and-such a timeframe… well, that all flies out the window like a caged bird that’s realized the keeper left its door unhooked. At the same time, my “interim” interests (intellectual sprints in the midst of my conceptual marathon) tend not to last long. Maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months. And I can lose interest in them rapidly, so that the full roster of Productive Activities I’ve earmarked for doing… well, that just gets lost along the way, too.

So, I end up with a lot of things started, and not a lot finished in the intended timeframe. Ultimately, I do finish things. But it’s years after the original plan. One of my books took nearly 20 years to complete. While others took me maybe 6 months, tops. Other works have been under construction for a couple of years, and they still don’t feel like they’re ready to be done.

I guess I do need to let my imagination “off the lead” and let it run around wildly for a few weeks/months at a time. It re-invigorates me, when I’ve reached a point of overwhelmed ennui, and nothing I’ve been working on makes any logical sense anymore — not because it has no sense, but because I’ve pushed myself to the point of not being able to reason, to think, or to draw anything useful out of what I’m pondering.

It’s cyclical. It needs to be. And yes, it doesn’t conform to the usual timeframes of the neurotypical world. How do those people live that way, anyway? I don’t get it. It seems both forced and dessicated, as though there’s no room for anything human at all. Just a mechanization of our creative impulses.

I can say this (and complain bitterly about it), because I make my living as a Program Manager at one of the planet’s largest high-tech companies. I see (and have to live) this forced, artificial, mechanized way of doing things every moment of my professional life, and I don’t like it. I’d love to toss a wooden shoe in the whole works and grind the teeth off the gears. Stop the whole machine from working that way. But alas, ’tis not in the best interests of my ongoing employment to do that. I like to eat. I like having a roof over my head. I like being able to afford to live my life. So, I keep those gears turning.

It’s a master-class in Everything Not To Do, If You Want To Keep Your Spirit Alive.

Well, so it goes. Railing against the imperfections of the world is all very well and good, but it’s much more productive to counteract it.

And I guess that’s what I do, when I move at my own speed and meander through my personal projects. Like a boat moving between two bodies of water that are at different levels, I need to progress gradually through the “locks”, letting the waters flow in/out and lift (or lower) my proverbial vessel, as I move from one level to the next.

Maybe, just maybe, that gradual way is my own way reclaiming my own autistic identity and reinforcing my own “organic” process (much as I hate that expression). The daily grind really does show me how I do NOT want to conduct my own affairs. And while it does grind me down, and there’s a big part of me that wishes I could make a living doing what I love to do, rather than doing what others will pay me to do, because they’re under the impression that it “needs” to be done… I’m not holding my breath. I’m an inventor and a builder, not a marketer, and I’m not going to waste my time trying to force myself to work in a mode that doesn’t suit me.

So, the day job remains in place. Until I can make a living otherwise.

Well, the day awaits. I have a bunch of things I need to do, and I’ve got a social afternoon ahead of me. I’m looking forward to it. Hangin’ with another Autist. It’s always a pleasure and a relief.

Till Monday rolls around, and it’s back to the same old…

In the meantime, though, I’m good, just going along at my own pace, piecing things together as I go, and keeping my spirit alive and lively.

With joy.

All that joy.

The resurgence of thought

Ice pillars in northern CanadaIt’s Saturday evening. I got about 2 1/2 hours of sleep this afternoon, topping off my 24 hour total of about 9 1/4 hours. I’ve needed to sleep like this. It’s been a rough bunch of weeks. Or rather, months.

After months of stress, including some really distressing changes to routine, I have finally found some balance. I’m finally back at a place where I can actually think complex thoughts. For some, not being able to string together highly complex thoughts might not be that big of a deal. For me, it’s brutal. It’s as bad as not being able to get up and move freely around the space, my back and legs cramping with intense pain. I’ve been there many times, physically, and it happens mentally as well.

Not that anybody notices. My low level functionality is more than adequate for the people around me every day. But it’s not for me. When I’m living at low-level functionality – that is, on the same level as most of the people I interact with on a daily basis – it’s as painful for me as the chronic, crippling pain was for me, 25 years ago.

But this isn’t about feeling sorry for myself. It’s actually celebratory. Because now I can get back to being me. No I can get back to doing the things that bring me joy on a daily basis.

I can pick up those books again, that I bought six months ago, and actually dive back into them. I can work on the writing pieces that I started last spring, and hope to actually complete them. I can dive into the kinds of mental and cognitive exercises that really do make me who I am, and live the joy that is my autistic life.

And I don’t have to be stuck in the conceptual equivalent of a sitcom or a vacuous reality show, slogging through each day, just trying to get to the end of it, so I can collect my paycheck and go home to collapse.

I can pull the manila folders out of my filing cabinet, open them up and rifle through the notes that I made, on and off, over the past four years, and actually make sense of it all. I can pick up where I left off, and as long as I can forgive myself for being susceptible to the exhaustion and overwhelm, I can actually make some progress.

I wonder sometimes what will become of my writing, when I’m gone. Will any of it makes sense to anyone? Will anyone care? Or will all the words just disappear into some shredding pile, or warm someone’s house as a firestarter in their fireplace?

I spend way too much time wondering about that. I need to just let it go

Because radio, right now, the only thing that really matters is that I’m able to work again. I’m able to think again. I am able to reattach the thoughts and concepts into a coherent stream, and make some sense of it all. I’m able to bring things through to completion, even as my outside life rages on with So much complication and conflict – most of it unnecessary.

I’ve said a number of times how difficult summer can be for me, in times like this, when I start to come out of my sunlight/heat/busy-ness-induced fog, I get yet another reminder of how true that is. Autumn is in full swing. We’ve changed our clocks, so it’s cold and dark, just the way I like it. It won’t be long before snow starts to fly, they will find myself out of my driveway, yet again, pushing the white fluffy stuff around. People will withdraw. Hibernate. And my mind and I will be free to do the work we need to do.

There’s part of me that wants to conceptualize this pernicious debilitation at the hands of overwhelm as a disability. And in some ways, it is. But in other ways, it’s just more background noise. It’s just another aspect of my life that adds texture. At least, I can keep working my paying job to keep things afloat, while I struggle to find balance in my own life.

If I were unable to earn a living, while this is happening, I don’t know what I would do. But that’s not one of my problems. There are other things that keep me on my proverbial toes.

For now, I just need to be immensely grateful that I’m able to think again in the ways that I want most to think. That’s a lot to be grateful for, and I really, truly am.

Sharing: “The Feeling of Ferocity” from Eclectic Autistic

Great post!

In a post about a month ago, I mentioned in passing that I was about to try out a new martial arts class that was starting up in my town. I’ve now been training there a month, and really enjoying myself. 🙂 It’s still a small class, split between some teenaged beginners and another woman […]

via The Feeling of Ferocity — Eclectic Autistic

More work… looking forward to winter

leaves in trees
Just hanging there. Taunting me…

It’s November. Nearly halfway over. And the leaves are still hanging on my trees. I need them to fall, so I can rake them up and get on with my life. I don’t mind raking. All my neighbors either use leaf blowers or they drive their riding mowers around their yards, sucking up the leaves into the compartment behind the mower.

I have a leaf blower. But I hate it. It’s loud. I need to get some ear protectors for when I use it, but better yet – never use it at all.

Fall is work time for me. Cleaning up the yard, raking, cleaning out the garage. And of course, finishing up the year at work. I have to be on a conference call in another 30 minutes — 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday is not my favorite time to be working, but we have work that needs to get pushed out to the world, and this is just part of the whole scene.

I also get a break for Thanksgiving week, as well as Christmas week. I get full weeks off, each time, which is pretty amazing. In past years, I had maybe one extra day off before Thanksgiving, and another day off after that. And for Christmas, it was always a challenge trying to juggle work and holiday celebrations. Combined with lots of driving to see relatives, various holiday gatherings with friends and workmates, etc. etc.

Not this year, though. This year, I get a break, which will be most welcome.

And I’m going to make the most of it.

I’m really looking forward to this winter, I have to say. The darkness, the cold… When it gets below freezing, I feel the best. I actually feel much better, the colder it is. If it’s just above freezing, it feels cold to me. I think my internal heating only “kicks on” when it’s bitter cold outside.

Later, after my call is done, I can go outside, maybe do a little more raking (even though all the leaves aren’t down, yet), and run some other errands. I’ve got a list. Of course I have a list.

I also have a handful of other things I need to do. Like shop for food and visit my friendly neighborhood health food store to pick up non-mainstream health supplies. It will be good to get out. I’ve been practically merged with my work laptop for most of my waking hours, for the past 5 days, and this morning will be more of the same.

I could really use a full day off. Heck, I could use two days off, where I don’t have to do anything for anybody else, and I can move at my own pace. But that’s not going to happen for another week, at least. No, wait – it’s going to be longer than that, because Thanksgiving week, I’ll be traveling to visit family several states away. So, it’s more like three weeks, till I catch a break.

Even then, I’m not sure it’s going to be very relaxing. Because these deadlines I’m on right now are leading up to new features and functionality on my employer’s website, and that will keep me on my toes, tracking how it’s going and reporting in to people On High about what’s good, what’s bad, and what needs to change.

What a pain in the a** it all is.

Well, anyway, this is what I get paid the big bucks for. And I’ll just need to find a way to manage this whole thing and spin it properly so the People In Charge continue to have full faith in me. I just need to come up with good systems for reporting, so I don’t have to constantly scramble to keep the People In Charge appraised of what’s what — just let the systems run themselves and report out from there.

Oh, that reminds me… there’s something else I need to do for Monday. I promised someone I’d get them numbers. Guess I should do that.

I’ve digressed.

I have a lot going on. It’s overwhelming, if I think about it. But if I just keep my lists and I take good care of myself (extra rest, not worrying about getting everything perfect all the time), it’s totally do-able.

I just need to do what needs to be done. And that’s something I do really well.

So, that’s something.

Now, if only those leaves would fall … before the snow comes along.

Using all this energy *in* my favor – not against me

traffic jam taxi cabs in new york city
This is pretty much how I’m feeling, these days. Jammed up.

Blocked.

Stopped in traffic, when I should be moving forward, consistently, cleanly, systematically.

If I were left to my own devices, I could totally do that.

But … people.

People and logistics. And politics. It’s all blocking my path. And it’s exhausting. So, I don’t have as much energy to get all creative ‘n’ that and come up with innovative new ideas. The best I can do is slog through. And for this Autistic, that’s about the worst thing anybody can ask me to do.

I’m a sprinter. As well as a marathoner. And I need to sprint periodically, to really stretch myself and get things accomplished. Right now, I’m stuck in the herd with a bunch of non-Autistic folks who have ulterior motives and political agendas.

And it’s next to impossible to get anything done.

How frustrating.

Well, it’s not all bad. Once I get done with my whining and complaining, I can see just how much of an opportunity this is for me. I’ve been wanting to make a significant change in my life for some time, but I’ve held off because I could always tolerate how things were. I’m not talking about being satisfied and fulfilled and doing my best work. I’m talking about just not being too depressed by my situation to move, and being able to maintain at the most basic level to “pass” as someone who’s happy and productive and content where they are in life.

All that acting gets tiring.

So, being in this stupidly impossible situation is giving me motivation to do something about it. And I am. I’ve gone through my projects list and picked a few that I’m going to complete over the next year — and a few that I’m going to focus on through the end of the year. I do well with deadlines, especially when I set them. And I have to say, my methodology and my approaches are really, really good. I generally can’t pull out all the stops and really GO with it, around the people I work with, because they just don’t operate at the same level as I.

That’s not me being arrogant or egotistical. It’s me being honest. I’ve worked in too many high-stakes positions before, with companies that were at the top of their industries, and I’ve been doing this a long time. So, I’m just trained that way. Many, if not most, of the folks I work with are 10-15 years younger than me. They haven’t been through the “meat-grinders” that I have. They haven’t been worn down to nothing, burnished and polished, quite the same way I have. And it shows.

And there’s very little I can say or do that makes any sense to them, because they don’t have that history and that perspective.

So, I just do my own thing in my own way. I inject every bit of professionalism and experience into my own projects, that I miss on a daily basis. Because I’m a coder and a user experience designer and a tester and a sys admin, I can set things up for myself that meet my standards and make sense to me. Every bit of laxness, every bit of excuse-making and risk-aversion I experience at the office, I counteract with my own work on the side. And that’s the one thing that saves me, really. It does my spirit good.

Some people have kids they live for. They’ll go through anything because they love them. I suspect that’s one of the reasons that people I work with are so willing to tolerate all the B.S. that takes place each day — they’re doing it for their kids. Well, I don’t have any kids. All I have is my work, and the fruits thereof. Sacrificing my sanity for the sake of … anything … well, that doesn’t make much sense to me.

So, rather than letting it bother me, I just channel my frustration into other things.

And get on with creating the kind of work and life I want to have.

If the rest of the world can’t accommodate me (and they can’t/won’t), I’ll carve out a space for myself. Everybody else can do what they like.

I need to do what I like, as well.

And that’s that.

Another week goes by…

It’s Tuesday. It feels like Friday. I’m churning towards a Big Deadline at the end of this week, and then another one next week. And then the holidays hit and it’s time to drive down to see two sets of families in two different states, each of them a day’s drive apart.

Oh, joy.

Actually, I’m mostly okay with all of this. I’m just maxed out. Frustrated and over-extended and super-sensory.

Which means I need to be careful… very careful… Because the last thing I want, is for all these deadlines and this frantic work situation to wreck my holiday season. I only get to see my family once, in the next 2 months. We used to drive down for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that stopped years ago. We both got too old to run all over creation. And – surprise – it turned out to be pretty awesome to have one of the holidays to ourselves.

Silence. Peace. Our own schedule on our own terms. Glorious.

And this year promises to be even more glorious, because work has an enforced shut-down over the holidays. Between Christmas and New Years, nobody is allowed to work (oh, except for the people who keep the IT systems running and keep the money coming in – they never really get time off). So, not only will I have that time at home on my own schedule, left to my own devices, but I also won’t have to juggle work and “alternate” schedules with all the people who are taking two days off here, three days off there, and puttering around in between.

I’m really looking forward to that. For sure.

It will give me time to catch up on my reading. And my writing. Especially my blogging, since that’s really suffered in the face of all this work. I haven’t been around much at all, between being overworked, and then having to catch up with myself, getting pulled in a million different directions, and also helping my partner with a bunch of stuff she’s got going on. I honestly don’t know where the time goes. But the volume of work, as well as the intensity levels of Every . Single . Day . has all just been ridiculous.

Deadlines. Harumph. Please.

I’m not even sure why I care so deeply about all of it.  I mean, it’s not like The People In Charge really give a damn about me and my health. It’s not like anybody gives a damn, period, about the challenges I face. Over the weekend, I realized — for real — that the only presence in my life that is actually 100% on the same wavelength as me, is my body. I love my friends and family, but they have their own challenges, and my body is the only presence my life that is 100% attuned to me, that can literally read my  mind, and that can — and will — respond to me in ways that are all about me, every single time.

The thing with people — and I do love and care for the folks in my life — is that their lives are circumscribed by their own constellations of dynamics… which have very little to do with me. It’s like we are all steering our proverbial ships by very different stars in the sky. Sometimes we cross paths. Sometimes we head in the same direction. But really, we’re oriented in our own ways that could easily have nothing to do with each other.

I think about this a lot, as I age. We live in a time when everybody’s supposed to be so connected and social, but we’re less connected than ever. Sigh.

Oh, well. It’s time for my second breakfast. My schedule is a little thrown off by the time change, but I’m adjusting. At least I have an “extra” hour in the morning. And I absolutely love the long nights and cold weather. It’s so much better for me than summer, with all its light and heat.

So, that’s something to be grateful for.

Now, back to work. I’ve got a deadline looming.

I know it’s going to be difficult – what can I do about it?

holiday stress full page
So, I’m a little stressed, thinking about the holidays…

I’m a terrible complainer. That is, I tend to do it, but then I realize how terrible I sound (to myself), and I have to stop. Some people have no problem announcing their woes to the world, but for me, “if I name it, I own it”. If I can see I’ve got a problem, then it’s incumbent on me to do something about it.

Not everybody feels the same way, and that’s fine. everybody’s different. I just have a really hard time living with myself, when I’m moaning about every little thing.

And every now and then, I do.

So, this year, I’m keenly aware of the approaching holidays and how they have affected me in the past. I don’t want to have to go through it all again — and again — and again. Past years have been so traumatic, and mainly because I wasn’t aware of my issues, and I didn’t manage them properly.

This year is different. I mean, I knew that I was “different” and that certain things bothered me more than other people.

  • Crowds
  • Loud noises
  • Bright lights
  • Changes in diet
  • Changes in routine
  • Interacting with hyposensitive, sensory-seeking family members
  • Lots of people talking all at once
  • Stressful events like shopping in big-box stores
  • Having to choose just the right thing from a large array of stuff

So, basically, the holidays.

They bother me. And they bother a whole lot of other people on the Autism Spectrum.

So, I know this. It’s not news to me. And being even more keenly aware of it, since my formal assessment, this past July/August, it comes even more front-and-center.

And with it comes my responsibility.

I’m big into responsibility. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me. I seem to be surrounded by people who don’t give it a second thought and can’t be bothered with it (maybe because I’m more than willing to be responsible? probably…) But it’s really been the secret to my success throughout life. I have to own my own experience, and if I am aware of something I can manage, then it’s my job to mange it. Especially if not managing it will make me and everyone around me miserable.

I don’t get a “pass” because I’m Autistic. I don’t get special dispensation and license to be an obnoxious asshole because I have difficulties figuring out social interactions and other people’s needs and responses. Since I know I have those challenges, it’s my responsibility to manage my situation so that I’m not an obnoxious asshole.

If I do otherwise, that makes me a sociopath. I’m not a sociopath. I’m not more important than everyone around me, and my personal expression isn’t a higher priority than the well-being of the whole. I’m a part of something larger than myself, and it’s on me to hold up my end of the bargain.

Because I can. Because I’m Autistic. I’m whip-smart in some ways and clueless in others, and that means I have to apply my whip-smarts where required, to keep from being a total effing liability to everyone around me.

Life is hard for everybody. We all have our challenges. Prioritizing my happiness over others’ well-being doesn’t help. At all.

So, that’s the deal with me. I have awareness about my situation, and I have tools to deal with it all. At the very, very least, I have the ability to write down WTF is up with me and sort through it. I have a pretty good sense of where I want to go in life and what outcomes I want from different situations, and if it’s not working out, then I’ll use my super Spidey-sense to ascertain what can be done… and how to do it. And I can certainly follow up afterwards to see what worked, what didn’t, and so forth.

So, enough advance drama. Anxiety doesn’t help me one bit. If anything, it makes it harder for me to function. All across the board. I need to keep focused on what is real, what is in front of me, what is genuinely problematic.

Life is challenging enough, dealing with real situations… why make it even worse by coming up with something new and novel to hassle over… when it might not even happen?

Okay, enough thinking. Time to get on with my day and make the most of my day off. And get prepping for what’s to come.